The Common Grackle

I think the common grackle is anything but common.

It is a medium sized black bird with yellow eyes. These birds are slightly larger than your common blackbird, at about 12 inches long, with a tapered bill and a glossy metallic look to their feathers. 

Common Grackle: cwatts/Flickr
Photo: cwatts/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Grackles are omnivorous birds and often forage and feed in flocks. They have been known to steal food from other birds, eat small fish and amphibians, and devour a corn crop. Grackles also have a hard keel on the inside of their upper mandible that allows them to open acorns. They are truly fascinating birds.

Grackles often perch together in tree tops, or on telephone lines, calling back and forth to each other.  Their calls have often been described as an abrasive, loud, “swaaack”. Their songs are said to sound like a rusty gate in the trees. You know it when a flock of grackles descends upon you.

The other evening I was at my sit spot listening to the Grackles in the trees and hoping to get a picture of one of them. The calls between the them were constant, slightly louder than expected, but comforting all the same.

Then, all of a sudden, there was an abrupt change in their chatter and the trees emptied out. The Grackles took to the sky in a dark wave heading out across the yard.  They turned eastward and headed towards the mountains.  Surprised by this exodus, I wondered where they were going and what startled them.  I remained still for a few more minutes. I was watching, listening, hoping to see what caused the departure. Nothing showed itself to me.

Several minutes later, as I was getting ready to leave my sit spot, I heard the calls of the Grackles in the distance. It sounded like they had taken up roost down the road at the neighbor’s farm. They had left my spot, but had not left the area.  

Grackles has always fascinated me. Their yellow eyes and shiny feathers make them look like something out of a movie. They are such unique birds and I enjoy any time I get to sit and watch them.

Have you had any interesting interactions with the birds in your area?  

Photo: Darren Smith/Audubon Photography Awards

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